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BURNET —  The search for a new Burnet County associate magistrate judge is well under way, county officials said.

“We anticipate a lot of applications,” County Judge Donna Klaeger said.

Klaeger, Precinct 3 Justice of the Peace Peggy Simon and Precinct 4 Justice of the Peace Edward Cutchin will interview applicants for the position, officials said.

The tentative start date for the new magistrate is March 15, Klaeger added.

Basically, the associate magistrate judge is the first point of contact for an arrested person brought to the county Jail. The magistrate informs suspects of the charges brought against them and their right to an attorney, evaluates their mental health, sets jail bonds and officially receives inmates for incarceration.

As a cost-saving measure, the County Commissioners have recently decided to add the role of indigent defense coordinator to the associate magistrate’s duties.

The indigent defense coordinator receives requests from impoverished defendants on public assistance and verifies their eligibility for a court-appointed attorney, officials said.

Currently, the County Indigent Defense Coordinator is a part-time position. Former Associate Magistrate Judge Gale “Mac” McCurdy retired last month. Simon, Cutchin and Precinct 1 Justice of the Peace Calvin Boyd will take turns performing magistrate duties until a replacement is found, Klaeger said.

Unlike city governments, the county cannot directly hire a replacement for McCurdy, officials said.

Technically, the new associate magistrate will be an employee of Granite Shoals, since McCurdy was a municipal judge there before his appointment as associate magistrate.

The county will reimburse Granite Shoals for the new associate magistrate’s service, officials said.